Escapism

Have you ever fully felt present? Inarguably engulfed in the here and now? Void of any outside influence or worry? It’s what we all desperately search for, isn’t it? The peace, the stillness, the seemingly flat-line of life, where gargantuan levels of life exists.

I’ve escaped to the country for the weekend, which isn’t difficult to do when you live in Wales. A fourty-five minute drive out of the bustling Capital which is Cardiff has transported me inland, where I seem to be the only human who exists. A desire to escape my normality and the four walls of my city life flat has led me to a charming Air B&B on the cuff of Monmouthshire, where such is so peaceful that the dull hum of the fridge and the fizzing of the WiFi router is enough to distract you from the happenings which lie outside. My creative juices- as an overtly confident drama student would declare – have felt somewhat confined over the last couple of months. Not due to a lack of ideas or ambition, but of the ‘get up and go’ which entails distracting myself from the familiarities which lie in my flat long enough to put my phone – and social media – away and pick up my laptop to write and to edit and to exhert excitement into a piece of machinery of which I’ve sat in an office chair staring at for seven hours previously. I needed to detach work from my personal passion projects, and reconnect with the exuberance I’d left behind on the office desk. I needed to look up and look out of an unfamiliar window and inhale the essence which laid outside it. I needed to fling open the glass and breathe in the crisp air which lifted the fog that shrouded my brain. I needed to escape.

The brilliance of nature is widely scoffed at. An olde-worlde answer which doesn’t stack up with 21st Century problems. I’m guilty myself of ignoring it’s miracles, eyes glued firmly to the device which sits pride of place in my hands. But there is no better practice when mastering the art of being present and alive than sitting amongst the trees and the life which thrives amongst them. ‘She’s a treehugger!’ I hear you cry. Not quite yet, but there’s still time; As I relish in the beauty of the birds and the ahem- bees which dance on the opposite side of the pane of glass I can’t help but feel connected, feel inspired, feel creative again.

Through the looking glass. I spent most of my
Time at this window.

I closed my eyes and listened to the life unfolding around me. I’m failing to recall a time I noticed such a variety of bird songs flounceing through the air; The edgeless purring coming from the chicken pen was in stark contrast to the high-pitched call which echoed from the Red-Kite soaring above. I opened my eyes and everything seemed brighter. The leaves fell in a spiral, mincing off their branches to their final resting space. Apples lay at my feet, bruised by their hardship, damaged goods. A squirrel leapt across the grass with grace which could challenge a RAD trained ballerina. In the distance, pillows of clouds consumed the top of Sugar Loaf mountain, its peak name-sakingly peaking through the fog to expose it’s greatness to those quick enough to capture it. In hindsight, none of these things were extroadinarily obscure in themselves, but the anchoring of the present moment of which they provided was a step towards creating my own corner of extraordinary.

Connecting with yourself, with your aims, with your goals, is a necessary step in reminding ourselves why we’re here and what it is we want to do. It is so easy to get caught up in the mundaneness of life, the 8am alarm clocks and the 7pm microwave meals. Allowing yourself time to escape, gifting yourself those moments of stillness you will never get back is an act of kindness of which you will never regret. Whether you physically escape to a bolthole in the country like myself, or step outside and take in the greatness of your local park, next time don’t just watch the World go by, entangle yourself amongst it.

It’s cool to be kind.

It’s cool to be kind.

You’ve got to be cruel to be kind, or so we’re told, right? ‘They’re being mean because they like you’ is – quite honestly- a messed-up role we accept as a must-be fact when we’re infants; A bright-eyed and bushy haired four year old believing that the boy who pushed us over on the playground and scraped open our bruise-riddled knee cap was picking on us because he liked us. Some folk build their whole personalities around their brutal ‘honesty’ and the fact that they’re #real, claiming the title of the bitch of the group as if it were a Pride of Britain award. “I just say it how it is babe”. What you’re saying- babe – is that you’re a prick.

For far too long we’ve brushed off rudeness as a character trait, something to laugh along at although we wouldnt dare say it ourselves. Excusing the behaviour of that friend who’s slut shaming others from the pub corner because ‘that’s just what they’re like’. Or letting your elderly relative get away with calling the woman on the table next to you ‘a bit of a porker’ because ‘he’s from that generation’. But what if this ‘harmless’ fun in which you giggle at under closed doors amongst your tightly-woven friendship group is breeding something more harmful than a sour-mouthed loveable rogue? One who can’t be scoffed at and told to pipe down over a pint of Heineken and a packet of bacon fries, or sighed at that ‘Grandpa you can’t say that anymore!’ through muffled laughs of secret impress. What if these small spikes of validation are slowly encouraging the rise of thy once woeful friend or relative to tread into ever more dangerous territory; Territory where they cannot be monitored, recognised or identified, Where they can hide under a false persona and push young girls to attempt suicide through their smug opinions and ghastly off-the-cuff comments. What if you’re giving birth to an internet troll?

Sounds crazy, right? But they’re arising from somewhere, and at lightning speed. As someone who has unfortunately been on the receiving end of online trolling and name-calling, I can *categorically* state that these individuals aren’t overweight, sweaty men who wear off-white vests and hang out in their mums garages giving their wrists a good work out –not all of them anyway. These people are really, really….normal? Your mum’s friend Carol (it’s always Carol isn’t it?) who lives a few doors down might send round some of her left over apple pie on a foggy Thursday evening, but what you fail to see is that she’s also pressing send on a Facebook comment calling a twenty-something girl she doesn’t know a slag on a local newspaper’s page. Your loveable elderly Uncle? He’s sending unsolicited dick pics and graphic sexual comments about what he wants to ‘do’ to women fifty years his junior straight into their inbox. Your brother? He’s belittling women on Twitter and telling them to get a real job. And your sister? Well, she might be tagging her friend in an Instagram post as they laugh at the way a girls belly roll sits. These people drop their kids off alongside us at the school gates and they bust out a sweat on the bike next to us at a spin-class. They could be sitting alongside you in the office or at the table on Christmas Day. Intenet trolls don’t have three-feet tall purple hair and hide under a bridge ready to steal your pet goat as it trots by, Internet trolls walk amongst us and it’s highly likely they’re being spurred on by someone – or something- which has led them to genuinely believe that they must share their opinion that you have fat ankles and are boring AF before they combust into a cloud of frogs because they haven’t been #real in at least ten minutes.

Jesy Nelson: Odd One Out – Jesy speaks candidly about her mental health struggles in the documentary (Photo: BBC)

Jesy Nelson’s gritty BBC Three Documentary ‘Jesy Nelson: Odd One Out‘ exposed the side of the internet we all try and dismiss, turning our heads to the outpour of hatred that spills out of the fingertips of thousands of individuals online. ‘Don’t Feed The Trolls’ we’re told. But when someone is attacking your character, manipulating your image, stealing your photo’s or lampooning the bits of your body you hate to see reflected back at you in the mirror, it’s difficult to shrug it off as just nothing; To not want to defend yourself, or not take their comment personally. If a kid called you a name in the school playground, you would’ve called them something back, or at the very least gone home and cried into your pillow about it afterwards. To suggest we can choose to totally ignore it is a difficult pill to swallow. In fact, it’s like trying to swallow a scotch egg whole. It’s just not going down. To see the affect these stranger’s comments have had on Jesy’s character was heart-shattering. A once confident and laughter-hungry young girl now riddled with insecurities she didn’t place on herself. We can say it time and time again- these trolls are sad, they’re bitter, they’re lonely. But how do we stop them? How do we re-train them, change their behaviour, convince them that they’re wrong? How can we stop these secret (and sometimes openly proud) hate-breathers in their tracks? They seem to have no shame, no empathy, no emotion. Somewhere along the way we’ve created a society where people feel completely comfortable being a knob. It’s really, really concerning.

It’s cool to be kind, it’s nice to be nice. But Mary Poppins isn’t real and life isn’t always as straight as a twelve-inch ruler (what did you think I was going to say?). We say mean things sometimes, we laugh at horrible things sometimes and we occasionally, un-intentionally encourage bad behaviour. We’re only human, after all. But wouldn’t it be nice if we could all be a little more aware of eachother’s feelings? Even strangers and people behind Instagram posts and reality-tv shows have crappy days. When did we become so de-sensitised to that?

Let me serve you up some homework that will warm your cockles more than your Nan’s roast potatoes on a hungover Sunday. For seven days, comment something positive under someone’s Instagram/Facebook/Twitter picture. Seven People. Seven nice comments. Seven days. Trust me, it’ll leave you feeling a whole lot nicer and much more appreciated by the World than letting a Kardashian know what you really think of them under their most recent post will.

#777 Are you in?